Renewed Interest In Space, Lunar Explorations

Japan's space agency today launched its much-delayed lunar probe in the most ambitious mission to the moon since the US Apollo space flights.

The Selenological and Engineering Explorer — or Selene — probe was launched on board an H-2A rocket from Tanegashima, the remote island location of the agency's space centre.


Japan's mission comes at a time of renewed interest in the moon. China plans to send a probe, the Chang'e 1 to the moon, possibly this month.

The Chang'e 1 orbiter will use stereo cameras and x-ray spectrometers to map three-dimensional images of the lunar surface and study its dust.

China's official Xinhua news agency has reported that a manned probe could be launched within 15 years. Japan is also considering a manned mission by 2025.

Meanwhile, Google has launched a $20m (£9.9m) competition to send a robotic mission to the moon. To claim the prize, a team of researchers will need to send a rover to the moon, make it roam for a minimum of 500 metres and send video, images and data back to Earth, all before December 31 2012.

Full article here

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Everybody else want to go to space too..

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Kiteman9 years ago
To get back on topic, the current state of manned space exploration should be seen as an embarrassment to both the US and humanity in general.

NASA have been in possession of a workable, affordable, safe plan for an extended presence on Mars.

If NASA had adopted the plan when presented, human beings could have been celebrating the Millennium on Mars, for less than the original planned cost of the ISS.

The new scheme of going to Mars via the Moon is an embarrassment of poor planning - the claim is that Mars-targeted technologies can be tested on the Moon first is wrong, either through spin or ignorance. Lunar landers have to cope with hard vacuum and temperature variances of up to 400 degrees on a monthly cycle. The daylight hours are radiologically not fun. They have to make soft landings purely by retro-thrust due to the lack of any significant atmosphere.

Martian landers have to deal with lower temperature variances, but on a more rapid cycle, and have to deal with a chemically-harsh environment. There is an atmosphere, so landings can be softened by parachutes or aerodrag. If thrusted landings are used, the engines would have to be radically-redesigned compared to those intended for the Moon due to the presence of an atmosphere (atmospheric pressure also alters the burn-characteristics of rocket motors). Winds, whilst not strong by Terran standards, are enough to lift enough dust to block access to solar energy for days at a time.

Lunar material resources are minimal in the extreme - with enough energy, oxygen can be extracted from some rocks, plus aluminium, but little else. The Martian regolith and atmosphere, though, can be chemically harvested to produce oxygen, water and fuel for further exploration or return flights.
lemonie Kiteman9 years ago
You still have the basic of "we want to go to Mars". Above what may /may not be a practical means to an end, reasonable or affordable, if someone wants to do it: they will, and just for the sake of doing it. Where is the value in putting men or women off the planet (in a physical and not drug-induced sense)? L
Kiteman lemonie9 years ago
In the long-term, it's survival of the species.

Destruction of the home planet is inevitable, but unpredictable - there are still an unknown number of large, Earth-crossing bodies out there. Eventually, one will hit. Or maybe it will be Yellowstone that takes us out. Or a solar flare.

Putting a significant population elsewhere will increase the likelihood of the long-term survival of humanity.

Having the potential of a whole new home will also focus the planet as a whole. Some readers will remember the energy around the early Moon-landings, or at least the excitement of the first Shuttle launches. Combine that with the entrepreneurial spirit of the European expansion into Africa, Latin America and especially North America, and you have an energy, a gestalt, that could drive the human race onto astounding things, both at home and out there.

I confidently expect another three or four decades on this Earth - I see no reason why that period cannot see a self-sufficient colony on Mars, in the Asteroids, and even generation-ships taking us further out - the ultimate wagon train.
lemonie Kiteman9 years ago
It ain't practical.
We've evolved to live here, you ain't going to get a significant population elsewhere, wild-west syle, without some natural natural resources (like plants, animals, rain, air etc.)

. No doubt. If we don't become extinct first, we will have to spread somewhere at some time, but I just don't think now is the time for manned flight to Mars.
. It is orders of magnitude more difficult to get people to Mars (or anywhere else, even on Earth, for that matter) than 'bots ... at least if you want the people to be alive when they get there.
. Getting the people back - alive - is even more difficult. I doubt if we will be able to send enough people and resources (mass) for a self-sustaining colony. It's gonna be hard enough to lift all the stuff needed for a primitive lunar colony.
. From a PR standpoint, it has to be done safely. I don't know why, but most people don't seem to understand that when one is pioneering, one stands the chance of getting killed - it's part of living on the bleeding-edge. Pioneers (astronauts, test pilots, Arctic explorers, et al) understand this and, for many, it's part of "The Thrill," and they gladly accept the risk. Yes, I feel bad that pioneers get killed, but I'd be willing to bet that every one of them would rather have died the way they did, instead of sitting at home pounding on a keyboard. Our society expects everything to be safe - you've seen the reaction to space-related deaths. However, deaths on Mars, probably wouldn't have the impact that a shuttle burning up on TV had.
. From a more local POV, if "proving" that we (the US or "Free World," take your pick) are "superior" to <pick an enemy> is the objective, it might be worthwhile, but I don't think it's gonna impress most of our enemies (they already know they're out-gunned and don't care).
. Yes, I feel sure the we will eventually end up on Mars, but I think it's jumping the gun to not get established on the Moon first. I'm all for sending 'bots.
I strongly recommend you get hold of a copy of The case for mars" by Robert Zubrin. Your library may have a copy.
. Unless he addresses the social issues, I can't see him affecting my opinion very much. It wasn't too hard to convince ppl to spend the money (it will take a LOT to get ppl to Mars) on space exploration when it would help us defeat the Commies, but things have changed. Even back then, ppl got very upset when astronauts died.
. I don't see any reason for manned flights to Mars until we have a few stable colonies on the Moon. Kinda puttin' the cart before the horse, in my book.
True very true, but don't you think we could use the moon as a staging point?
Man O man, I cant wait till I get out of MIT...
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